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Future-shaping projects

The innovation people

Why there’s more to innovation than cutting-edge technology

Colleagues Meghan Young and Gabriel Yong explain how understanding human needs powers innovation at Capgemini.

What is an average day at work for someone working in innovation? According to Meghan Young, head of Capgemini’s Applied Innovation Exchange (AIE) Nordics in Malmo, Sweden, there’s no such thing as an average day.

“On one day I’ll be meeting start-ups or expert academics from a university,” she says. “But on the next, I’ll be helping a client innovate around a project’s pain points, or working with our internal team to improve best practices in innovation and design, or thinking about the fun work we do as a global AIE community. My work is really wide-ranging.”

Helping refugees in Africa

One recent project for Meghan was the Sunrise Scholars challenge, which brought together Capgemini’s global network of AIE teams to support LM International, a non-profit organization focused on humanitarian efforts in Africa. The aim? To identify an innovative solution to help refugee children in Chad gain access to education tools and materials.

The challenge took the form of a sprint relay, with seven AIE teams from six different countries, ranging from Hyderabad to San Francisco, taking part. Each team had only three hours to work on the challenge before handing over the baton to the next. In 24 hours, the challenge progressed from first ideas to the development of a concrete and implementable program. This first-of-its-kind working method was named the “Follow the Sun Relay.”

The plan was to create a cloud-based content management and teaching application, using generative AI to create curriculum proposals, lesson plans, and language-specific class scripts.

“It was a really ambitious idea,” Meghan says. “Of course, working incrementally and in sprints is not new, but I don’t think that we’ve ever done anything quite of that magnitude, with so many people participating. That was innovative in itself.”

Seeking the right solution

As Meghan explains, harnessing cutting-edge technology such as AI is often integral to creating innovative solutions for clients, but it’s only one part of the overall story. 

“Sometimes the latest shiny tech won’t work on the ground. Innovation is about solving the problem at hand, not about showcasing our tech capabilities. Before any of that, you have to listen to what the problem is and search to find the appropriate solution.”

In Singapore, Gabriel Yong is the user experience (UX) research lead for Capgemini Invent. He agrees with Meghan that innovation isn’t just about cutting-edge technology.

“I actually have a background in psychology,” he says, “which means I have an interest in human behavior and why people want to do certain things. Working in UX research, we also want to understand what drives people to complete certain actions and processes. How does the design of a product make people feel? How do they feel when they are using it?”

Willingness to learn

Gabriel says that when innovating for a client, he and his team always place the human at the forefront of their work.

“No matter what project we are working on, with any new tech we have to understand what users want, so that we can design the right thing for them. It means that as well as technical skills, you also need soft skills.

“For example, when you start working with a new client or industry sector, you need to be open and willing to learn – and to learn at speed. Every client is different and for a project to be a success you need to develop a trusting relationship with them, as well as with your own team. How can we use all our experience to develop the right product for them – the thing that will really make them happy? That’s where you can really start to innovate.

“Then, over time, we really get to build that rapport and get to know the client and their customers. It’s about reading the situation, understanding the human, looking at the puzzle, and seeing where we fit.”

Putting people first

Meghan says that while Capgemini is a world-leading tech company, it is also a “people company” at heart – and one where colleagues care deeply about the world. “If you want to innovate, you have to keep meeting people, talking to people, understanding people, and empathizing with them.

When I think of the people I’ve worked with throughout Capgemini, one thing that most of them have in common is that they care about what’s happening in the world. They want to help build solutions. “We might achieve that through the tech skills that we have as a company, but really Capgemini is a people company. And when it all comes together, working on innovative projects can feel like you’re part of doing something good for the world.”

Inside stories

Applied Innovation Exchange

Capgemini’s AIE is a global platform for innovation. It brings together a framework for action, a network of exchanges, and a diverse ecosystem